Trent Mooring, co-founder of Mother Earth Brewing, can’t put the experience into words.
The huge crowds. The sea of craft beer. And then the all-important awards ceremony. “It’s indescribable,” he said.
But he knows what a medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver means.
“It’s pretty big,” Mooring said. “It’s like winning an Oscar in the beer world.”
Mother Earth took home a GABF bronze Oct. 12 for the brewery’s new Bohemian pilsner, the second straight year the Kinston brewery placed in the competition. Mother Earth plans to release the beer as a seasonal offering in 2014.
All together, North Carolina brewers won four medals, tying the state’s count for most GABF awards in a year. Two other times – 2012 and 2006 – the state’s brewers won four.
More than 5,000 beers are entered in the competition and 252 medals were awarded.
“The main thing is it gives validation to the hard work and effort we put into these beers,” said Jon Connolly, brewmaster at Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill. “It puts you in a league with some of the nation’s best beers.”
Carolina Brewery won a bronze for its Genuine Oatmeal Porter in the robust porter category – the third GABF medal for the beer maker.
The two other North Carolina winners: Wicked Weed Brewing in Asheville took gold in the American-style Brett Beer category for Serenity, a sour beer made with Brettanomyces yeast, and Olde Hickory, based in Hickory, won a silver for Irish Walker in the strong ale category.
Wicked Weed’s gold is the first for the state since 2010 and a huge coup for the year-old brew pub that bested Russian River, one of the nation’s premier breweries, to win the prize.
Don’t rush growlers yet
The old saying of “rush the growler” won’t apply in North Carolina – at least not yet.
The state approved new temporary standards last week to allow retailers such as grocery stores and bottle shops to fill empty beer growlers, or half-gallon jugs, that are popular in the craft market.
The rules take effect Friday, but don’t expect to see any local beer havens offering fills on Day One – or even Week One.
A call to a handful of local bottle shops indicated that many are still trying to decide whether they will offer the fills. The state requires a three-sink cleaning process for growlers that shop owners consider onerous, and space is an issue.
Ted Gross at Bottle Revolution in Raleigh bought 10 new taps in anticipation of the law. He hoped to sell disposable growlers, but the regulations prohibit it. It’s also too time consuming, so he won’t offer growler fills. “The way they wrote the regulations is just so ridiculous. It doesn’t fit our business plan,” he said.
Apex Beer Dispensary, Tyler’s bottle shop in Raleigh, Beer Study in Chapel Hill and Sam’s Quik Shop in Durham all are interested in offering growler fills but won’t be ready this week. Carrboro Beverage isn’t sure it has the space. Big retailers like Harris Teeter, Whole Foods and Total Wine are also likely to fill growlers.
The exception is Asheville Growler, a business that opened earlier this summer in anticipation of the law change.
“The response I’ve gotten over the last few months is overwhelming,” said owner Sean McNeal. “They are chomping at the bit and just can’t wait.”
What I’m tasting
At home, I’m brewing a Pumpkin Porter for the upcoming Homebrew for Hunger, an amateur brewer festival Nov. 16 in Chapel Hill to benefit PORCH, a food relief nonprofit. To research the style, I tasted two commercial examples: the Epic Brewing and D.C. Brau collaboration called “Fermentation Without Representation” and Redhook Ale Brewery’s “Out of Your Gourd.”
Both pour dark brown with rich foam and smell like the season, with nutmeg and cinnamon aromas. I preferred the Epic version with its vanilla character and bolder spice profile and pumpkin flavor, but both hit the spot. Find them at your local bottle shop.
Contact John at 919-829-4698 or firstname.lastname@example.org.